Hearts and Hammers, Week 1

For the last few years, I have been on the team for The Real Estate Council for Hearts and Hammers Dallas.  This year, however, I was moved up to co-captain of one of two houses.  I actually didn’t know I was until I received an email for a meeting related to it, and I showed up.  Apparently, the email meant I was going to turn it up a notch.

Hearts and Hammers is a program that serves people in the area (there are chapters all over the country) who need help with their homes.  The clients must meet a certain income level and a certain amount of need.  In Dallas, the City actually takes this task on.  They take the applications and perform the interview process and background check.  I do not know what all of the requirements are to receive help, but it appears that the City goes out of its way to make sure we are helping the right folks.

When we come in, we basically pick out the houses, schedule the pick up days for materials, and coordinate what we need, what our scope of work is, and how many workers we will need.  Hearts and Hammers actually provides the majority of the materials; however, their materials are somewhat limited – if there is some other work you need to do, it is up to the teams to get that done.

This year, the program accepted money from HUD, which put a new set of rules in place having to do with the control of lead based paint.  The captains had to go to a training event, where an instructor went through a Power Point presentation provided by HUD and played a short instructional video.  Mostly, the information had to do with dust management and collection (keeping the paint from staying on the ground and soaking into the soil).  All was good, but it made me think about a few things.

There were a couple of other items that were typically provided by the program that were not this year.  The Real Estate Council has a budget for this project; so covering was not necessarily a problem.  However, the fact that Hearts and Hammers did not cover certain things and that they accepted HUD money shows that they have had budget cuts just like many of the programs in Dallas have suffered (I assume it is coming from Dallas due to the items not provided – I’m just choosing not to go into what they were).

On a general level, it got me talking with my girlfriend about budget cuts made my governments.  Since our city, just like many others, is suffering from budget problems, the program gets less money. Well, fine.  But what happens when times get better?  Will they get their original budget back, or will the increase in revenue go to other programs, or even new programs?  After listening to the budget meetings for the City of Dallas, I am beginning to wonder about this on many levels: the libraries and rec centers in particular – will they increase their hours and programs back to what they were before?  I suppose only time will tell.  This is the first time I have had firsthand experience with a government budget cut (I work in pretty much all private work), so I have no experience to base any sort of projection.

Week one was prep work – clear out the property, scrape the house down, and fix odds and ends with skilled labor (i.e., not me).  Our carpenters got a lot done on my house, and a few folks from my firm were able to handle some of the difficult items on the other house.  Next week, we will paint and landscape, making everything all nice and pretty (right now my house looks like it has been in a war).  This is when we have the most volunteers show up.  I’ll post more when we are done!

I will also get a picture of the house up as we were working on it when I receive one.